Mexico and world react to murdered journalists

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

UN Secretary General leads a moment of silence on World Press Freedom Day 2012.
Image: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.
The United Nations honored the 74 journalists killed since 2011.
Video: United Nations, UNTV.

This past weekend, over 100 journalists in Mexico City protested around a statue where a mock note said in translation, "Government Journalist Killer" in reaction to deaths in Veracruz. Recent journalist killings have also provoked international condemnation.

Earlier Javier Duarte de Ochoa, governor of Veracruz, said Friday he would create a state-led organization to protect journalists after recent violence against journalists, including the discovery of dead photojournalists.

Journalists around the nation and the government of Veracruz are reacting to the dismembered bodies of four Mexicans, three of them photojournalists, who were found in a canal in the state of Veracruz, Mexico, on Thursday, which happened to coincide with World Press Freedom Day, which is held on May 3 every year.

Two of the photographers worked for Notiver and later VeracruzNews. They were identified as Gabriel Huge and Guillermo Luna. The body of Luna's girlfriend Irasema Becerra was also found. The other photographer, Esteban Rodríguez, had worked as a videographer for TV Azteca before working for Diario AZ.

The Committee to Protect Journalists released the following statement in condemning the death of the three photographers: "We are deeply troubled by reports of these murders that, coming as they do on World Press Freedom Day underscore the ongoing crisis in Mexico. Veracruz has seen a wave of lethal anti-press violence that is sowing widespread fear and self-censorship. Mexican authorities must act now to end the deadly cycle of impunity in crimes against the press."

Irina Bokova, who is the director-general of UNESCO, said, "That these gruesome crimes have been committed on the eve of World Press Freedom Day – a day on which we honour the vital role played by journalists in upholding democratic values, protecting citizens’ rights to be informed and calling those in power to account – makes the situation all the more intolerable...I condemn these three murders in the strongest possible terms and urge the Mexican authorities to act quickly and decisively to find those responsible. Impunity is not an option."

On the Saturday before the deaths, the body of Proceso journalist Regina Martinez was found in her Xalapa apartment. Martinez had been investigating other journalists who had been killed in the state of Veracruz. The three bodies of photographers and Regina Martinez bring to eight the number of journalists killed in Veracruz in the past year and a half.

Four journalists died in Veracruz in 2011. The long-time crime journalist for Notiver, Miguel Ángel López Velasco, better known by his pseudonym Milo Vera, was killed along with his wife and son. López's son Miseal López Solana was a crime photographer at Notiver who often worked with his father. About one month after their death, the body of their colleague and friend at Notiver Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz was found decaptitated with a note at the crime scene. She was investigating the López's murder at the time. Earlier in 2011, Noel López Olguín of the La Verdad de Jáltipan was murdered.

In March 2012, the Mexican Congress approved a Constitutional amendment to make it a federal offense to attack a journalist and that would need six more states to sign on before it would become the law. Over the last ten years, the toll of the Mexican Drug War has been high on journalists as more than 80 have been killed and another fourteen are missing, according to Reporters Without Borders. Almost 50,000 people have died during Mexican President Felipe Calderón's drug war.

The drug cartel known as the Zetas are active in Veracruz. However, a cartel that is closely allied with the Sinaloa cartel headed by Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán and is based out of Jalisco is at war with the Zetas over territory. Both of the competing cartels have been pressuring journalists in Veracruz to cover only its side of the story.

Mike O'Connor, a spokesperson for CPJ on Mexico, said, "It's hard to imagine what else reporters can do to stay safe there."

In other news on World Press Freedom Day, UNESCO presented Azerbaijan journalist Eynulla Fatullayev with its Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize at a conference on press freedom in Tunisia. He spent four years in prison for his journalism.

In New York, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon led a moment of silence to honor the 74 journalists who died since 2011, of which fourteen have already died this year. This figure does not include the most recent discovery of Mexican journalists.

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